Golden Years: Later Works of the Great Impressionists


April 22, 2013

“The secret to artists living so long is that every painting is a new adventure.  So, you see, they’re always looking ahead to something new and exciting.  The secret is not to look back.” – Norman Rockwell

The history of art is rife with artists who died tragically young, such as the gifted Venetian Renaissance painter Giorgione, the troubled Dutch Post-Impressionist Vincent Van Gogh, and the late 20th century Pop artist icon Keith Haring.  But, what about those artists who painted well into their golden years?  According to David Brauer, several of our most well-known Impressionist painters enjoyed decades-long careers.  We visited recently with David Brauer to find out about his upcoming class, “Renoir, Degas, Cezanne, Monet and their Later Works.”

Monet Photo of Monet with paintings

WIH Reporter: What is important to know about your class?

Brauer:  Whenever you have an artist who lives a very long time like Renoir, Monet, Degas, it is fairly consistent that the earlier works get the most attention because they tend to be the most pioneering, groundbreaking works.  Therefore, the later works are somewhat neglected.  All of these artists share the distinction that their work retained its significance over the decades.  Because they are all great artists, their work deepened, became more profound.

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WIH Reporter: As they got older, did they repeat the earlier themes or did some of them blaze new trails?

Brauer: Impressionism meant different things for these four artists.  You couldn’t have two artists more different than Renoir and Cezanne or Degas and Monet.  Degas’s work featured the human body heavily, where Monet focused on landscape, nature.

I always stress that all of these artists changed almost decade by decade.  For example, the Monet of the 1860s was not the Monet of the 1870s and certainly not the Monet of the 20th century. They all evolved.

at the bar crop

WIH Reporter:  Is this something that you’ve always been curious about?

Brauer: I’ve always been interested in artists who lived a long time and produced great work till the end, like these artists and Michelangelo and Titian, for example.  The later works may not be as famous, however.

There is a profundity that can come with age and experience that is not automatic.  In the case of these artists, when you look at the late works of all of them, they have a profundity, a depth that gives them their ultimate voice.

Just like great poets or great writers, if they can keep their focus throughout life, it brings with it a depth of experience and knowledge that you cannot have when you are younger.  Then you start to ponder questions like “What if Van Gogh had lived another 20 years?”  He wouldn’t have been the Van Gogh that he was when he died.

This afternoon course (1:00pm-3:00pm) begins on May 8th, 2013 and runs for four weeks.